Population Analysis

China and the United States are the 1st and 3rd most populous nations in the world and both have powerful women’s teams, ranking 16th and 1st respectively. Here, US defender Crystal Dunn is dribbling past Chinese Defender Lou Jiahui in a friendly that the US won 2-1 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/highwaytodistraction/42352858375)
Jerome Boateng represents Germany. His half brother, Kevin-Prince, represents Ghana despite growing up in Germany. He applied for a Ghana passport in his 20s after having played for Germany youth teams. Examples like this demonstrate the way that population can be deemphasized due to the global nature of soccer and lax rules around representing countries (https://www.flickr.com/photos/highwaytodistraction/42352858375)

Another factor examined was the population of the country.  Population data from the CIA World Factbook was used.  Population was examined with the hypothesis that it should be positively correlated with success because a larger population has a larger pool of potential players from which to choose.  One potential issue with this hypothesis is that players often have dual nationalities. A team of 23 players could be made up of several players who spend all of their time playing soccer abroad and may not even be from the country they are representing, but have some family history in the country and hence can represent said country.  While this could upset the correlation of soccer success and population, it should not significantly disrupt the general trends and the general advantage of a larger population.

The United States, the top ranked women’s team and 3rd highest population in the world is one of the best examples of very populous countries having top teams.  The United States has very large high participation in youth soccer, with tons of potential prospects trying out soccer at a young age.  On the other hand, countries like India and Indonesia have very large populations (2nd and 4th) but poor women’s soccer teams (63rd and 86th).  And there are small nations such as Norway and Denmark (both countries of about 5 million, ranking 120th and 116th) that achieve great soccer success (currently ranked 12th and 17th).

There are some classic stories of tiny nations achieving sporting success on a large international scale.  For example, Iceland, a country of under 400,000 people, captivated the world by qualifying for the 2018 Men’s World Cup and drawing with world power Argentina. This analysis should show whether population is a significant factor that contributes to women’s soccer success and how it fits into the larger picture of different variables and their impact on women’s soccer.  And this can tell us whether countries feats like the one achieved by Iceland are really that improbable, or whether population is not a significant factor in sporting success.

The correlation between population and women’s soccer success yielded a negative coefficient, -3.10.  The t-value from the correlation was -6.18 and the p-value was 0.00, demonstrating statistical significance.  It is very surprising that the data would show this relationship to be negative and significant.  It would not be shocking for the link to be shown to be insignificant, as this would merely just say that a country’s population does not affect the success of their women’s soccer team.  However, suggesting that a larger population actually hurts a women’s team’s chances of suggest does not make any sense.  It is hard to conceive a smaller population serving as an advantage for a women’s national team.

Just the examples listed above show that there are plenty of giant countries with bad teams and tiny countries that are perennial powerhouses.  One potential  explanation for the curious data is that the small, nordic countries that are dominant at women’s soccer have thrown off the data.  Powerhouses such as Norway and Denmark could help cause the negative relationship that was discovered.  However, it is shocking that that relationship would be that significant.  Due to the seemingly random results of this correlation, and the lack of any logical explanation, the results will largely be ignored.  It is odd that the correlation would show this significant, negative correlation, but we are concluding that what it is really saying is that population is not an important factor in determining women’s soccer success.


“The World Factbook: COUNTRY COMPARISON :: Population.” The Central Intelligence Agency, www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html. Accessed 19 Apr. 2019.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *